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Sunday Morning News

Albanian Rebels Fight Macedonians

Aired March 18, 2001 - 7:09 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In the Balkans five straight days of fighting have rocked northern Macedonia. Government artillery and mortar fire are battering suspected rebel footholds near Tetovo, that's Macedonia's second-largest city.

For the latest, we turn now to CNN's Chris Burns, who joins us on the phone from the Macedonian capital Skopje.

Chris, what's the latest?

Chris, you there -- Chris Burns?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... mainly ethnic Albanian city. More heavy, heavy machine gun fire, artillery fire, mortar fire as government security forces try to dislodge these ethnic Albanian rebels who are dug in pretty deeply on a mountainside on the edge of Tetovo. Those Albanian rebels are demanding more rights and an end to discrimination against Albanians in Macedonia -- they make up more than 25 percent of the population.

So that fighting continues; government forces thought they had made some progress last night, but it doesn't seem that way today. At the same time KFOR is reacting because German KFOR troops were fired -- their base was fired on a couple of days ago, just outside of Tetovo. KFOR coming forth with a fairly strong warning, saying they will not tolerate this kind of thing; that they will not tolerate any attacks against KFOR soldiers, and they will respond with determination to any threat.

At the same time, KFOR has been beefing up its patrols; U.S. patrols especially, because it is the U.S. sector the borders that area on the other side. Inside Kosovo they've been stepping up their patrols to try to prevent rebels and arms from passing over the border. The Macedonian government says that most of the rebels have been coming from there; however, a lot of Albanians -- Albanian politicians say that there is a legitimate claim by the rebels, or perhaps by Albanians, and that the rebels are taking advantage of that and issuing a call to arms among Albanians inside Macedonia, trying to get them to join it. So far we don't see any popular support for that, at least in terms of arms, but a lot of Albanians are empathizing, at least, with the cause.

Outside parliament today another protest by Macedonians -- the Slavic Macedonians who are taking their side and saying that they're tired of being driven out of Tetovo by the fighting. They're demanding the government take more action. Last night they cat-called the president -- President Trajkovski outside the parliament last night. So anger building on both sides.

On the other hand, the parliament last night reached a resolution -- bipartisan resolution between the Albanians and Macedonians, calling for an end to the fighting, calling for peace, calling for reform. So perhaps there is a ray of hope here -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Chris Burns following a very dynamic situation, to say the least, in Skopje, Macedonia.

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